by Carolyn Forché
The Colonel Foreignness and the Other Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Sentence)
I was in his house. (2)
What is this, some kind of Foursquare check-in? The speaker is letting everyone know she has entered the colonel's domain. Not only has she traveled to his country, but she is a guest in his house, her otherness the reason for both the invitation and her attention to the minutest detail.
On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. (10)
You have to wonder, are they meant to keep folks out, or to trap guests in? With a line like that, you can feel the clampdown. A simile like this compares the odd to the familiar, and shows the quality of difference. In the speaker's experience, liquor stores at risk of being jacked have gratings on the windows, not somebody's house.
The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. (11)
Who has a maid? Somebody rich, or powerful, or both. The speaker is clearly not either of these. After the meal, where most North Americans would expect dessert, the guests are served green mangoes, salt, and "a type" of bread. Without specifically saying so, the poet locates us in a tropical place, where they eat unripe fruit and even the bread is different.